Tag Archives: editing

How many words a day should you write, and other things I’ve learned in my first week as a full-time writer

It’s Friday night here, In Australia, and Week 1 of this full-time writing experiment is drawing to a close. If you’ve seen my work plan, I was supposed to have written 20,000 words. So, how did I go?

Well, I’ve had five leisurely breakfasts on my balcony.

IMG_2806 (1)

Oh, you want to know about the word count? Well, that’s complicated…

I estimate that I’ve written 15 to 20 thousand words over the last five days. The reason I can’t report the number with my usual precision is that I’ve deleted so much of the already-written text, I’m only 2,739 words ahead. That’s less than my planned daily quota. In fact, today I’ve worked for eight hours and ended up with about 500 words less than I had last night. Blin!

I am, however, very pleased with my current efforts. To start with, I overcame a major writer’s block – Monday was hard, as I went into some kind of shock of “this is it, sit down and produce a masterpiece.” I did sit down at my new desk, but managed to push out only 1K of words, and I could tell they were not gold.

Tuesday morning was a bit better, but my afternoon and evening were taken up by babysitting my niece and a writer’s group. I managed another 1K of pedestrian dribble.

It was Wednesday when I decided to stop forcing myself and to get reacquainted with my own work. I started writing in September, and it’s been so long that the manuscript read as if a stranger wrote it. A dull, tired stranger with a dayjob that sucks all of her creative energy, living nothing for character development, leave alone comedy.

Conventional writing wisdom dictates that you’re not supposed to edit your first draft until it’s finished, but I had no choice. There was every writing faux pas imaginable – from telling instead of showing, to boring filler fluff, to characters that reacted inappropriately and/or inconsistently, to finally (gasp!) a Deus ex Machina.

A magical thing happened on Wednesday, as I mercilessly slashed paragraph after paragraph. I started falling in love with the story again. I finally knew I was on the right path when, after I cleaned up and rearranged a major scene, I had goosebumps reading it. I could not stop working that day, finally forcing myself to go to bed around midnight. I then got up at least twice to turn on the light and write ideas on a huge whiteboard I have in my bedroom, so that I can finally go to sleep. It didn’t work very well – I woke up at 4.30, tried the whiteboard trick again, but had to admit defeat and make coffee instead.

The week is technically not over, so I should be able to add to the pile in the next two days, but currently I’m at 36K words. Entertaining, quality words that I would not be ashamed to send to a structural editor or beta-reader. Considering that Shizzle, Inc ended up being only 79K words, I’m almost half-way through Indiot.

I’m not only happy with the current progress, I’m very hopeful that I might have learned something about how I work. Forget all the rules – if editing helps you avoid writer’s block, then edit. If it paralyses you, then don’t even look at the first pages. How many words should you write every day? Well, that’s also up to you. I could not help but google this and found a pretty interesting article detailing average daily word output of famous authors. The morale of the article is that you should find your own pace.

The only thing I can add to that is that you should have fun, too.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

Grammarly is not that grammar-worthy

Ok, so it’s not entirely true. I don’t regret buying a subscription, but I’m not perfectly happy either. It is better than Word’s  built-in grammar checker, but it won’t replace the proofreader. What can I say, it’s complicated.

It started during the last-minute jitters of finishing endless editing rounds of Shizzle, Inc. I was oscillating between the highs of being happy with my copyeditor to the lows of stressing over the proofread.  Thanks to one of you, who suggested trying Grammarly, I decided to have one last go at proofread myself.

Originally, I was going to get a year-long subscription, but when the time came to pay up, I got second thoughts. What if I tried it and it turned out to be worthless? Grammarly warns you everywhere that charges are not refundable. In the end, I’d decided to do a $29 trial month, and I’m glad I did. Short story is that I won’t subscribe for a whole year, although I will probably do another “trial month” to check my second manuscript. Here’s why:

The good:

  1. I downloaded it as an add-in to my Word, so I could do all editing without the need to upload the file to Internet. This means you can use Grammarly as you write and not get confused with multiple versions. Just watch out – autosave is disabled when Grammarly is enabled, so you have to remember and save manually. Good thing I’m paranoid and do it every five minutes anyway.
  2. Grammarly caught a few embarrassing misspellings (did I mention I’ve had three independent, highly qualified editors look at this thing?). It’s “cozy homes”, not cosy. Isa avoided going outside altogether, not “all together.”
  3. It agreed with me that a comma is not necessary  before “and” in sentences such as “she said and asked for my license”. Of course, you may hate it for that same reason.
  4. It caught British spellings in what was supposed to be an American text (I would kiss it for that alone). Again, after a bazillion rewrites, there were “spiralling”, “dialled”, and “wolly” with two “l”s, as well as monologue, criticising, realising, and moustaches.
  5. It’s consistent. Human editors missed the same bits that they previously highlighted elsewhere in the document. Grammarly was often wrong, but at least it was 100% consistent in doing so.
  6. It gives you explanations for all its decisions. That helps making the final call on whether or not to accept a change.

The bad:

  1. Grammarly is not a writer. It constantly complains that my sentences are too long and that I use a passive voice.
  2. It doesn’t have a sense of humor and therefore doesn’t get that redundant and inappropriate words are part of the comedy.
  3. It is annoyingly politically correct. I mean, it suggests “undocumented migrants” instead of illegal aliens. Really, Grammarly? Wait, Grammarly hates every occurrence of “really”, too.
  4. It highlighted about 1,200 potential errors in my manuscript. About a thousand of them were dead wrong, and it took me a whole day to get through all of them.
  5. It needs an Internet connection at all times, otherwise it falls out.
  6. It did not pick on that many verb tenses, even though I suspect I have a few errors here and there. This was the main drive behind buying the subscription, because I find verb tenses so difficult.
  7. It constantly thinks that I’m addressing people and demands more commas. For example, in “we need a grinder guard” it thinks someone is asking Guard for a grinder.
  8. Some of the comma suggestions just did not make any sense and would have changed the meaning of the sentences. In the end, I’ve ended up going with my gut on the comma suggestions – if it felt right, I put one in, and if it didn’t, well – don’t judge me too hard on it!

I was going to have “The ugly” section, but I’m feeling a lot more accepting and zen about it all now. If you are interested in a second opinion, here’s a much more thorough and almost scientific post from Grammarist.

The bottom line is that I think $29 was worth catching a few embarrassments and giving me a bit more assurance in comma placement.  So there you go – although we’re taking a break now, I have a feeling I will be getting back together with Grammarly for the next book. Even if it’s just a one-month stand.


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

T-minus three days and counting…

First of all, thank you, everyone, for your advice and thoughts on whether I should buy my own ISBN and/or set up my own publishing company. After coming off a major adrenalin rush, reading your comments, and making a call to my local Australian Bowker, I had a plan.

I’ve decided not to bother with a publishing company, because, as someone pointed out, people “in the know” will know right away. Several comments even stated that self-published authors may get more support, or that some readers may even seek fresh, new books by indie publishers. All that, plus I really can’t handle more “unwriting” work right now. My little engine is sputtering as it is.

I did, however, buy a block of 10 ISBNs. One of the reasons was vague concern that I will be stuck with Amazon and Amazon only (to be honest, I’m not at all clear on this yet, information overload). Another one was that it turned out Australian-purchased ISBNs are cheap as chips! This will be probably the one and only product that costs significantly less in Australia (I still can’t get used to the price of shampoo and houses. Or food. Or cars. Oh, America, how I miss your cheap prices…). Anyway, if you go to the American Bowker site, you have to shell out a cool $299 USD for a block of 10 ISBNs. But go to MyIdentifiers AU and you can get the same exact ISBNs for just $84 AUS, which is about fifty American (plus a one-off first-time publisher registration of $55 AUS). I’ve called them up and asked if I can use the numbers to sell in the US and they said yes, the key being “International” SBNs. I’ve already assigned one of the numbers to Shizzle, Inc as a forthcoming novel!

Screenshot of Bowker page

The ISBNs allowed me to register Ana Spoke as the publisher, so I’m all set there and even added the two numbers (ISBN-10 and ISBN-13, whatever they are) to my copyright page.

I’ve also been busy with the very last, definitely final, absolutely, positively final text polish. It’s amazing that after at least a dozen self-edits and three professional edits, I can still find things to tweak and improve. Today I’m about to buy a year’s subscription to Grammarly. At first I was all like “I’m not paying $139 after $3K of professional edits”, but after installing the free version for my browser, I’m sold. Grammarly is checking this post as I’m typing it, and I can’t help but think that it’s doing a better job than sometimes-retarded Word. I may decide to get just a trial month, but then I was thinking of how many documents I have to write for work, including constant job applications. Grammarly very well may make me a better writer.

Speaking of polishing, I’ve also finished (I hope) formatting the text. Here is the “before” shot:

Before makeover

And here is the same one with hair and makeup:

Text after makeover

I’ve done just a few things:

  1. Set up headings and a proper Table of Contents, which is supposed to translate easily to Kindle, with live links to chapters. Time will tell if it’s so.
  2. Changed font to Verdana. It’s on the list of recommended fonts for Kindle and one suggested as the easiest to read on the phone.
  3. Dropped caps, like they’re hot! Very easy to do, go to Insert – Drop cap or read this for a step-by-step guide: How to Create a Drop Cap.
  4. Offset paragraphs. I was reluctant to do that, I prefer the blockier office look, but when I looked at a few fiction books, they all had offset paragraphs. Here are a couple of very thorough guides on all steps you need to take in order to format your book for kindle: Amazon’s own guideFormat Book in Word blog (dedicated to book formatting) and CJ’s easy as pie Kindle tutorials.

Thank you once again for all your help. I will try to stick to my self-imposed deadline of this upcoming weekend. Look out for a buzzing, over-exuberant, tear-stained email in your inbox!


Filed under Shizzle, Inc.